CyberTech Rambler

March 29, 2006

AntiVirus product not saying what it does on the can: “It does not protect host computer”

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:17 pm

Imagine you install an anti-virus program on your computer. However, the anti-virus program does not actually protect the host computer. Strange, isn't it? Why would one wants to install antivirus program that does not protect host computer you might ask.

The simple answer is to protect other computers on the network. There had been a lot of so-called "anti-virus" product for linux that are not there to protect the host Linux computer, but rather to protect Windows Computer. Does such a piece of software make sense? Colbert Low has a very good arguement on why this make sense.

In other words, these so-called "anti-virus" program simply makes the Linux machine behave like an virus filter between the Wild Wild Web and one's precious Windows computer. In a network configuration, it is no different from server-hosted spam filter, firewall and other protection program.

However, when I say spam filter and firewall, the image that you, my readers, have is normally a server that does the filtering and firewall-ing. This is despite the fact that spam filters are turning up in email client applications like Outlook and Thunderbird, and personal firewall like ZoneAlarm do reside on the computer it is intended to protect. The reason is historically, they are part of the network services provided to downstream computers, the one you and I use.

Similarly, historically, "anti-virus" software have to be hosted on the computer it is designed to protect. It is only relatively recently that these software had migrated to the network as part of the network services. Hence, any mention of "anti-virus" software conjure up an image that the software is for the host computer's benefit.

Thus, I believe to call software that traps and filter viruses for other computers "anti-virus" software where the host computer does not itself benefits from the service it is providing is extremely misleading. That's why I do not like the the term "Anti-virus for Linux". The software does not protect the host computer. It is not that viruses, trojans, worms and other nasties for Linux does not exists, it is simply that at present, it is not worthwhile having a program on the Linux computer to protect it against them as the chances of infection is very low. If the "anti-virus" software on the Linux host is intended to protect other computers, then it is not an "anti-virus" software, because historical association had made the term inaccurately reflecting its function.

May be "Linux Defender for Windows" is a better name…

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